Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Give Up, You're Dead, Sell At The Trade Deadline (Part I: East)

At this stage in the NHL season, there are a handful of teams that are very clearly bottoming out for draft picks. They know they aren't competing this year, but they have a long-term plan based on the draft and development.

There are also a number of teams that look like surefire Stanley Cup contenders, who will likely be looking to add a piece to push them over the top. As the February 29 trade deadline nears, teams will have to decide whether they are buying, selling, or standing pat.

Doing nothing is the dumbest fucking move of all time. You don't benefit your chances for this season, you don't benefit your chances in the future, and you don't get the chance to take advantage of a desperate GM.

You either have to go all-in and buy, or go all-in and sell.

A lot of teams this season don't seem to realize they're dead. The Bruins, Canadiens, Devils, Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Flyers, Predators, Wild, Jets, Coyotes, Canucks, and Flames need to kill the dream of competing this year and sell off any assets they have that might be attractive to a team in the hunt.

(Note: I excluded the Sabres, Maple Leafs, and Oilers because they're all solidly in tank mode and I don't think any of their fans are confused about them being dead.)

(Another note: as usual, every number/fact/figure in this post comes from General Fanager dot com, which is a good website.)

Eastern Conference

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Boston Bruins

They have expiring contracts in Loui Eriksson, Max Talbot, Chris Kelly, and Kevan Miller. Eriksson, undoubtedly, is the best trade bait. But Talbot or Kelly could fill a bottom-six hole on a team looking for a veteran presence, though the Bruins would likely have to retain some salary.

As for Miller, here's a text I got from Dag last night during Boston's 9-2 loss at home to the Kings: "Kevan Miller has let up three (3) goals tonight". I'm a pretty big analytics guy, and I am of the belief that things like that are bad.

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Montreal Canadiens

After this train wreck of a season, they have two more years of Carey Price. Beyond that, the plan seems to be something along the lines of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You can win with an older goalie. Price, as good as he is, means the Habs are going to compete for two years (when he'll be 30). They should look to add some pieces around their core of Subban (now 26), Pacioretty (27), Gallagher (23), Galchenyuk (21), and Petry (28).

That leaves Tomas Plekanec (2 years and change, around $14 million left) and Andrei Markov (1 year and change, around $7 million left) as "players they'd like to dump but have more than one year left."

As for Montreal's available expiring contracts of older players, it's basically just Dale Weise, who is a useful piece but is probably due a raise this summer.

New Jersey Devils

It seems like the Devils' entire forward roster is expiring at the end of this season. Tuomo Ruutu, Lee Stempniak, Stephen Gionta, Jordin Tootoo, Tyler Kennedy, and Bobby Farnham are all probably too old to fit into the team's future plans. Are any of them worth anything? Probably not.

Patrik Elias is also expiring and may count as a solid veteran presence, but he's on the IR right now and he's almost 40. Maybe he fetches a mid-round pick?

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Carolina Hurricanes

Should they rebuild or just retool? They need to answer that question and then either extend Eric Staal or trade him at the deadline and retain half his salary (he expires this summer).

Regardless of what happens with Staal, they have a couple other decent trade chips. Kris Versteeg is 29, he's cheap, and he has playoff experience. Nathan Gerbe and Riley Nash may also find a home with a contender before their contracts expire this summer, though they're worth considerably less than Versteeg.

John-Michael Liles is expiring, and he's a quality defensive defenseman if you know of any teams looking for someone like that.

Carolina has some decisions to make.

Carolina Blue Jackets

Overall, the majority of Columbus' roster is some combination of young, locked up long-term, and not good enough to trade. The big names - Hartnell, Foligno, Saad, Dubinsky, Atkinson, Johnson - all have 2 years left (most have more). They have a bunch of RFA's that are either going to keep making entry-level money or are due a big raise (looking at you, Seth Jones).

Really, the only aging/expiring player is winger Rene Bourque, who is 33 and has a $3.3 million AAV on his contract, plus a No Trade Clause.

Columbus is kind of fucked, no?

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Philadelphia Flyers

And here's where it gets interesting. I wanted to take a look at the Flyers roster the same way I did with all these other teams. I'm going to factor out my fanhood, pretend I'm just a casual hockey fan, and try to judge Philly like I just judged everyone else.

Let's go bullets style:

  • Sam Gagner is expiring after this year and will be Unrestricted - he should fetch something at the deadline, though he's playing well enough that I could also see Hextall re-signing him. It's similar to the Eric Staal situation in Carolina. Either extend him or trade him, but don't lose him for nothing. 
  • Brayden Schenn is an RFA this summer, which poses an interesting situation for the front office: we can trade him before the deadline, we can re-sign him to a long-term deal before the season ends, we can re-sign him during the offseason, or we can let someone give him an offer sheet this year and he's fetch 1st and 3rd round picks for us. The issue with even including Brayden in this post is he's not really a deadline rental like everyone else I've mentioned. Moving on!
  • Michael Raffl, like Gagner, will be Unrestricted after this year. He's cheap, he's a solid possession forward, and he could bring in a decent haul for a rental if he's not in the long-term plans. But that's a huge if, and it seems like he is, in fact, part of those plans. 
  • Michael Raffl part two - what if we trade him for picks and then re-sign him this summer? That would be Peak Hextall. 
  • Ryan White is cheap and expiring, but I doubt he's worth much (or anything).
  • On defense, the big expiring older guy is Evgeny Medvedev, who's a capable puck mover and can generate offense from the point. At least as far as the Eastern half of the league goes, I don't see anyone on the trading block who can do what he does, and especially not someone who's expiring after this season with no long-term commitment. 
I'm going to look into the same situations out West tomorrow morning, but the cream of the crop on the trading block in the East seems to be Versteeg, Eriksson, and Staal (maybe) up front and Medvedev, Liles, and Markov on the blueline. I think each of those guys could contribute to a Cup-caliber team, and I'm excited to find out how they compare to the guys available in the other half of the league. 

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